Home Organizational Psychology Organizational Types / Structures Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — II. The Consulting Challenge

Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises — II. The Consulting Challenge

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William Bergquist

In addition to working with entrepreneurs on the unique challenges they face as leaders in closely held enterprises, the organizational psychologist faces several challenges of her own in working with the entrepreneurial leaders of these organizations. First, the person she is serving may have very limited time and resources to engage a psychologist. Because the entrepreneur is deeply committed to his enterprise and often faces real or imagined financial constraints, it is common that the potential client decides that he has neither sufficient time nor sufficient money to bring in an organizational psychologist: “only the rich and idle can afford an organizational shrink!”

The second major challenge for the psychologist centers on the issue of privacy. Everyone in a closely held enterprise knows what everyone else is doing. They would certainly know if someone is being “shrunk”. What is likely to be the reaction? Employees are likely to worry about what is going wrong—especially if they are very dependent on the entrepreneurial leader. This person is supposed to be very wise or very brave or a charismatic visionary. Why is our leader looking for outside help? Doesn’t she know what she’s doing? Is she afraid or lost or discouraged? These unanswered questions can send waves of anxiety through a closely held enterprise.

Alternatively, the employees—who often share with the entrepreneur a profound fear about the financial viability of the enterprise—may resent the expenditure of scarce funds for something as “frivolous” as an organizational consultant (especially a psychologist): “Who does she think she is?” “How are we going to afford this? “I know of a whole lot of other things that are more deserving of these funds!” There is, of course, a third possible reaction—which is full support for and appreciation of the benefits inherent in an entrepreneur getting some assistance from an organizational psychologist in addressing the major challenges we identified above. One would hope that this third reaction is prevalent; however, the other two reactions are very common in closely held enterprises.

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